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What is a structural survey?

The term structural survey is a little confusing and outdated.

House surveys tend to be undertaken by chartered surveyors as part of a valuation, a homebuyer’s report, or a building survey. Such reports often highlight the need for a structural engineer to assess a specific structural defect, this would be more usually termed a structural inspection.

Who do I talk to first?

A structural engineer. If you are buying a home you might employ a structural engineer to investigate a problem, but you will need permission of the owner to make intrusive investigations.

Alternatively, if you find a structural defect in your home and contact your insurer to make a claim, they may ask you to hire a structural engineer to assess the problem.

What is involved in a structural inspection?

A structural inspection will normally involve an initial visual inspection and assessment of the problem’s structural aspects.

Sometimes, if a survey provides enough detail, it may be possible to move straight to intrusive investigations - which could include making trial holes to expose foundations; lifting floorboards to establish the size of joists; or cutting holes in the ceiling to establish how walls above are supported.

Why is a structural engineer necessary in a structural inspection?

A suitably experienced structural engineer will identify the probable causes of the defect through their understanding of how structures and materials behave.

This specialist knowledge goes beyond the general knowledge of a building surveyor.

What can I expect the structural engineer to provide and/or guarantee as part of the survey?

The structural engineer should provide you with a written report, outlining observations and conclusions and making recommendations for the next steps – whether intrusive investigations, a plan to monitor the problem for a fixed period, or a solution to the issue.

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